Formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from acetylene over nanosized olivine-type silicates.


The formation mechanism of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) molecules in interstellar and circumstellar environments is not well understood although the presence of these molecules is widely accepted. In this paper, addition and aromatization reactions of acetylene over astrophysically relevant nesosilicate particles are reported. Gas-phase PAHs produced from exposure of acetylene gas to crystalline silicates using pulsed supersonic jet expansion (SJE) conditions were detected by time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOF-MS). The PAHs produced were further confirmed in a separate experiment using a continuous flow fixed-bed reactor in which acetylene was introduced at atmospheric pressure. The gas-phase effluent and solutions of the carbonaceous compounds deposited on the nesosilicate particles were analyzed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). A mechanism for PAH formation is proposed in which the Mg(2+) ions in the nesosilicate particles act as Lewis acid sites for the acetylene reactions. Our studies indicate that the formation of PAHs in mixed-chemistry astrophysical environments could arise from acetylene interacting with olivine nano-particles. These nesosilicate particles are capable of providing catalytic centres for adsorption and activation of acetylene molecules that are present in the circumstellar environments of mass-losing carbon stars. The structure and physical properties of the particles were characterized by means of X-ray diffraction (XRD), Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) techniques.

DOI: 10.1039/c2cp23309f